Soft Borders, Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle.

Our friends Dave and Carol Lam took us to Baarle when we were working in the Balkans.   We wondered about the possibility of ever being able to draw borders that reflected ethnic realities.  Dave said he had something he wanted to show us, the municipality of Baarle in Belgium, or is it the Netherlands?  The map of Europe has many geographic anomalies. But one of the strangest borders runs through Baarle.  The town is divided between the countries, Baarle-Nassau is Dutch and Baarle-Hertog is Belgian. The dividing line is anything but straight, or rational.  The border was set in the Treaty … Continue reading Soft Borders, Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle.

When the Sea Goes Away, Marken and Volendam, Netherlands.

“God made the earth, the Dutch made Holland.” But they didn’t need an environmental impact statement.  During my day long layover in Amsterdam my friend Dave Lam drove up from Brussels and we went to visit two old (you could say former) Dutch fishing villages, Marken and Volendam.  Eighty years ago both towns sat on salt water, the Zuiderzee, a 60 mile long inlet from the North Sea.  Then they sat on the Ijsselmeer, the freshwater lake formed when a large dyke closed off the Zuiderzee from the North Sea. Now they sit on the Markermeer, another freshwater lake once … Continue reading When the Sea Goes Away, Marken and Volendam, Netherlands.

Iron and Glass, Flowers and Trains

May 11, 2010 Dear Friends, On Friday afternoons I would go to my grandparents’ flat in Jersey City while my parents had their night out.  Grandpa Brew would tell me stories.  He was raised in Ireland, ran away to sea at 13 and developed a love of travel, ships, Ireland and America.    He introduced me to Democratic politics.  He also told a good story.  But his one love that didn’t transfer was his love of gardening and formal gardens.  He came out to our home in Ridgewood and made flower beds to lay out the garden “just so.”  I helped … Continue reading Iron and Glass, Flowers and Trains